Print Networks Conference

Print, politics and publishing: the role of the provincial press | 21 July 2017  |  Birmingham City University

John Freeth was landlord of a celebrated Birmingham tavern and it was his custom to write songs about the news of the day, setting his words to popular tunes, which he sang nightly to patrons. This made Freeth’s Coffee-House one of the most successful in England. Freeth published nearly 400 of his songs, which offer a novel insight into the radical and nonconformist politics of late eighteenth-century Birmingham.

In 1783 Josiah Wedgwood printed a series of political leaflets in Newcastle-under-Lyme. An address on the late riots was occasioned by corn uprisings at his factory, when Wedgwood summoned militia to disperse the mobs. Following arrests and one execution, Wedgwood’s leaflet warned against the folly of violence to redress social evils and recommended ‘peaceable’ alternatives, stressing the temporary nature of economic recession.

On 27 October 1857, John Bright MP addressed a crowded Birmingham Town Hall. Already a famous politician and orator, expectations were he would deliver a news-worth speech. So much so, The Times chartered a special night train to deliver his text in time for the morning editions. His speech in the provinces, a call for universal suffrage, marked a turning-point in nineteenth-century electoral reform.

This one-day conference invites papers, which consider politics (of all flavours) and the provincial press from the early modern to present day.

  • Papers of twenty-minutes duration are invited for this interdisciplinary conference from postgraduates, independent researchers and established scholars. Topics might include but are not limited to:
  • Regional political texts: their origination, design, production, distribution, consumption and reception;
  • Reflections of provincial political identities in the design and production of ephemera, pamphlets, newspapers and books;
  • How the look and content of regional publishing has contributed to, or been shaped by local politics;
  • Popular print and ‘street literature’ (ballads, chapbooks, broadsides etc.);
  • How provincial publications disseminated local, national and international politics;
  • Understanding the politics of regional towns through their ephemera, pamphlets, newspapers and books.

Papers once delivered can also be put forward for consideration by the journal, Publishing History

We offer a postgraduate conference fellowship, sponsored by the Bibliographical Society, for which provide a reference is required from an academic supervisor.

HOW TO APPLY Please send a suggested title, synopsis (200 words) and biography (100 words) via a Word attachment to David Osbaldestin (

DEADLINE 1 March 2017

COMMITTEE Dr Catherine Armstrong (University of Loughborough); Prof Caroline Archer-Parre (Birmingham City University); Dr Maureen Bell (University of Birmingham); Dr Giles Bergel (University of Oxford); Julia Cunningham (Independent scholar); Dr John Hinks (Birmingham City University); Barry McKay (Independent scholar); David Osbaldestin (Birmingham City University); Dr Lisa Peters (University of Chester).